In The Devil's Arithmetic, Hannah Stern, a girl who is bored by stories of the Holocaust, is transported back into the midst of it. She finds herself in 1942 on the border between Poland and Germany, living in a Yiddish-speaking household. In this reality (which, for obvious reasons, seems unreal to Hannah), she is Chaya Abramowicz, a girl who is recovering from an attack of cholera, which killed both her parents.
Shmuel is Chaya's uncle who, along with his sister, Gitl, has been looking after her during her illness. At the time Hannah travels back in time, Shmuel is about to marry Fayge, a girl from a neighboring village. However, when the wedding party arrives at Fayge's village, the family are arrested by the Nazis and taken away for resettlement. Shmuel does not know what this means, though Hannah, having studied the Holocaust, can see what is going to happen.
After a failed escape plan in the concentration camp, Shmuel is executed. He is portrayed as a brave man who is also kind, generous, and loyal, never failing in his love for Fayge, whom he holds in his arms until the last moment. The courage of Shmuel and others she meets in the past convince Hannah of the importance of remembering the Holocaust.